Open Letter on Palestinian Academic Freedom

We, the undersigned members of the Johns Hopkins University community, express solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues, whose academic freedom has been curtailed and stifled by the Israeli occupation. As individuals of conscience, we believe it is our ethical and moral responsibility to support our peers abroad by protesting the systematic attacks and restrictions enforced by Israeli authorities on Palestinian students, teachers, and educational institutions.

Decades of direct and indirect Israeli military rule in the West Bank and Gaza as well as discriminatory policies and practices inside the borders of the Israeli state have severely undermined the academic freedoms of Palestinians and their educational institutions. The long-standing policy of Israel to deny Palestinian refugees the right of return ensures that future generations will inherit the troubling educational conditions characteristic of life in refugee camps scattered across the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

In the occupied West Bank and Gaza, Israel controls internal movement and international travel. Palestinian professors face severe restrictions on teaching or attending conferences internationally, while university students are often hindered from pursuing their studies abroad or have been forced to reject research opportunities and scholarships. For many Palestinians, traveling to the next town can at times prove just as difficult as traveling abroad. In the occupied West Bank, students and teachers have faced years of military checkpoints, curfews, and obstacles to their freedom of movement. Schools and universities have been subject to random closures and military invasions.

It is similarly difficult for international academics and scholars to visit or establish working relationships with Palestinian universities, as they are routinely denied entrance visas by Israel. Recently, both Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Salim Vally, Senior Researcher at the University of Johannesburg, were invited by Palestinian universities to give lectures, but were ultimately denied entry. The practicalities of entry into Israel have made international scholars and students increasingly reluctant to accept invitations to teach or study at Palestinian universities.

American academics and students are increasingly recognizing the need to respond to Palestinian demands for justice. The recent decision of the American Studies Association (ASA) to support the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions is one tactic to challenge those complicit in maintaining Israel’s occupation. Responding to the ASA’s decision, President Ronald J. Daniels and Provost Robert C. Lieberman of Johns Hopkins University have voiced concerns for Israeli scholars, worrying that an academic boycott will have a “profound impact […] on the scholars who form the intellectual heart” of Israeli universities. What is glaringly absent from these responses is an acknowledgement of Israel’s longstanding assault on Palestinian education and concern for the academic plight of Palestinians.

We invite the Johns Hopkins community to stand in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues. Together, we can collectively transform our university community into one that recognizes injustice in its myriad forms and fights for the protection of educational access and academic freedom for all.

To express your support for this letter and you are Hopkins affiliated, sign it at http://tinyurl.com/mztur59

For more information, you can email us at hopkinssjp@gmail.com, or find us at www.facebook.com/hopkinssjp

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